For the past five years, misinformation surrounding the Herring fishery has been publicly circulated — much of it calling for a moratorium on the entire fishery.
This year, when the herring gillnet fleet did not catch all of their allocated Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the Strait of Georgia (SOG), this trend of misinformation continued, with opponents of the fishery suggesting that fish were not caught due to low biomass numbers.
This couldn’t be further from the truth and highlights a lack of understanding towards both the fishery and harvesters who participate in it.
Fish harvesters had planned for this year’s roe herring fishery based on the 2022 recommended harvest plan. With only a month’s notice, the Fisheries Minister decided to reduce the SOG harvest rate by 50 per cent and close all other herring fisheries in BC.
The roe herring fishery market is for herring roe and in order to produce a high-quality roe product, fish harvesters target large-size female herring carrying maximum roe yield.
Harvesters do this by fishing selectively, taking test samples, surveying the spawning population before and during the fishery, and by moving or re-moving their gear if they are not happy with their results.
The overall management of herring is supported by peer-reviewed science, with one of the most comprehensive data sets available to DFO management.
Herring is also fished under a sustainable harvest plan with rates at or below precautionary science recommendations that are determined after comprehensive planning processes that include pre-season engagement and post-season review.
Herring has been painted as the “foundation of the marine ecosystem.” But small organisms like phytoplankton and zooplankton are the real foundation of the marine ecosystem. These species feed herring, salmon, and many other species.
Herring is also a metapopulation, meaning it is made up of spatially separated populations of the same species that interact at some level.
Despite what has been suggested by some, many major herring spawning areas remain, including the Strait of Georgia, West coast of Vancouver Island, Central Coast, North Coast, and Haida Gwaii.
If spawning isn’t directly seen and recorded during DFO charters, it does not get included in the model data. This means that reported biomass is only a minimum.
DFO’s own scientists had determined the allowable commercial catch using highly conservative harvest rate models and decided there was sufficient biomass in the SOG, North Coast, and Central Coast to support a commercial fishery this year.
UFAWU-Unifor believes that science-based decision-making should be the foundation of fisheries management and that the public should be provided with accurate and timely information about fisheries decisions.
Misinformed views of fisheries and management practices lead to politically motivated fisheries management, which results in the reduced viability of fisheries and interferes with everyone’s ability to optimize and benefit from a well-managed harvest of a public resource.